Organizational Memory and Project Development: A Case Study Examining How a Small Business Uses Its Organizational Memory When Making Project Development Decisions Open Access
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The goal of this research was to explore the structure and functions of the organizational memory of a small, privately held, for-profit energy consulting and engineering firm, focusing on the use of organizational memory in project development decisions. A secondary focus was the role of technology in this process. At the time of this study, the company had been in business for over 25 years and had begun to contemplate its future without its founder. Using a case study design, the structure of organizational memory was analyzed based on frameworks developed by Walsh and Ungson (1991) and Olivera (1999, 2000). The Walsh and Ungson (1991) framework, with its emphasis on the storage of organizational memory, provided a starting point for the analysis of the structure of organizational memory. The Olivera (1999, 2000) framework expanded the organizational memory structure discussion by suggesting a dynamic, evolving system of organizational memory, as opposed to the static, separate storage bins proposed by Walsh and Ungson (1991). Olivera's organizational memory systems framework (1999, 2000) was also used to understand the functions of organizational memory. Through this study, practitioners may gain an appreciation of how, why, and when the past influences the present (Birkinshaw & Sheehan, 2002; Brown & Duguid, 2000; Fisher & White, 2000; Hansen, Nohria, & Tierney, 1999; Kantrow et al., 1986; Storck & Hill, 2000; Swan, Scarborough, & Newell, 2010) in a small business setting. This may include an increased understanding of the influence of organizational memory on the day-to-day life of a small business as it makes decisions (Brown & Duguid, 2000; Fiedler & Welpe, 2010; Hansen et al., 1999; Kantrow et al., 1986). Practitioners may also gain a better understanding of what is lost to an organization and its memory when employees leave, either voluntarily or involuntarily, taking not only their experiential knowledge (Aiman-Smith, Bergey, Cantwell, & Doran, 2006; Martin de Holan, Phillips, & Lawrence, 2004; Myers & Dreachslin, 2007), but also disrupting unseen social networks (Aiman-Smith et al., 2006; Fisher & White, 2000; Parise, Cross, & Davenport, 2006) and the flow of social capital (Massingham, 2008).